Thoughts of a mole woman.

49841684293_8c7d178cac_c

49926467931_094360716a_c

What is there to write about? The slow, molasses drip of time which suddenly shifts into something similar to the time I tried to ride a horse and it began galloping and I just held on screaming for dear life? I feel like I’ve just gotten off a long flight all the time; a bit disoriented, tired, but hopeful that the trip was worth it.

Right now I work in a windowless basement and joke that I am a mole woman who emerges after my shift, blinking and stupid for a second while I adjust to whatever is happening up there. The other day I came home and Logan mentioned it had rained during the day. I shook my head and told him I didn’t know, and he thought it was fucked up that I worked without windows underground, hidden. I think it’s fucked up he’s taking seven (!) classes online from an ancient brick of a computer at an Ikea desk in our living room. Split the difference?

For some reason, being a mole woman in a windowless world suits the times. Most of the rules about normalcy are gone and the baby definitely went with the bathwater this time. I, the mole woman, emerge up the stairs in the hallway that perpetually smells like stale urine (I have no doubt it is urine), slowly coming to terms with the real world after standing on my mat for seven hours, sending children’s books to desperate parents in Manitoba.

When it’s not a day where I am required to descend underground in exchange for a less-than-living-wage, the alarm goes off at 4:45 am. It is early, but the light outside is already bright. I walk quickly to the sea, hearing birds already fussing and gossiping, crows hunting for breakfast, and the slightly creepy sound of the heron rookery that is in Beacon Hill Park. Tents litter the park right now, and I don’t mind them. The people who live in the park right now need it. There are clean bathrooms, garbage cans, and potable water. The city hates the homeless, wants them to disappear, but where can they go? Victoria is a city of insane wealth; I walk past yachts in the harbor daily, pass Aston Martins outside the butcher shop,  but I also walk past a kaleidoscope of colorful tents nestled in the sequoias and hydrangea bushes. Most of us don’t realize how short the path to homelessness actually is. It is scarily short, especially in our world of student debt and income inequality and wages that haven’t been raised in decades.

49932834916_ee4419979e_c

49841674383_3e40ff1dd7_c

I’ve been trying to spot the family of fat, slippery looking otters that emerged the day after my grandpa died. I don’t know if the universe actually sends you signs, but seeing this healthy, beautiful family of otters slip up to their den to sleep the day away felt like a hug from the world, and I haven’t gotten one since. They become more and more nocturnal as summer creeps closer, and instead of otters I’ve been encountering people, vectors of plague like myself. Seeing people before 6 am in public is unpleasant: the people who are out and about are up to be away from fellow humans, and we run into each other the way territorial animals do in the woods. I recognize this and usually don’t offer any more than a nice “good morning”. The response rate is not above 50% for the reason I mentioned above. I do not begrudge anybody their silence.

After meandering around, taking pictures, looking for otters and oyster catchers, I drop any film I’m done with at my local shop and head home. Logan is usually still asleep or just getting up, and I make us coffee and we start our day. Technically we could now go to a few restaurants or pubs but I feel pretty firmly against that, just because it’s not okay. As somebody who has worked in the service industry, who makes low wages right now, I couldn’t go and sit somewhere and pay for a meal that isn’t to-go. It still doesn’t feel right. If I did, I would only go in if I could leave like a 40% tip.

Instead, I meander to the cemetery, get groceries, and take the bus back. This trip brings me great joy- I am discovering so many interesting dead people, with beautiful graves and lives surely worth hearing about. I found Eliza Day and a Nick Cave song played in my head. I found Sierra Nevada, the product of some hip parents who surely named their kid after the mountain range before it was cool to do things like that. An infant, Lulu Victoria, has the most beautiful headstone all alone, her parents nowhere to be found, and now I walk by hers specifically to wish her well. These are the kind of relationships you can build during a pandemic, and by now many of the headstones are familiar to me. Cemeteries have always been some of my favorite places, and right now they draw me in even more.

49906511167_08b2b29465_c

How are you all doing? I hope you are faring well, eating plenty, sleeping enough (is sleep a darting, flighty thing for anybody else right now?). I’ve got to go file a missing package notice with the United States Postal Service. Some things, mundane as they are, do not change even as a racist rapist runs my country into the ground and people die while others cavort at parties and murder their grandma. I watch from afar in Canada, where people are particularly smug about the lack of virus and lack of a far right nutter as their leader. I benefit from their health care system and general shit-together-ness though, so how mad can I be?

An obituary of sorts.

8527156824_fbcdb88783_o

Last night we stood under a rookery of great blue herons, their babies hungrily crying out from the sequoia trees high above our heads. Apparently in a few weeks they’ll jump from tree to tree, stretching their wings and practicing flight. I wondered what would happen to the ones who fell from such heights.

I missed a call from my mom while we stood under those trees, my mind in morbid territory worried about the precarious future of those heron babies. I knew it was the call when I saw it later. My mother confirmed this when I called her back. My grandpa had finally passed. My mom was doing the chores you do after a death; everybody had to contacted, told of the plan, and comforted. Women are usually forced by cultural expectations to be at least moderately proficient at comforting and doing the senseless chores that must be done after any great drama or event. My mom does not deviate from this formula.  She is prepared. She’s had seven years to ready herself for his passing. The first time my grandfather went on dialysis marked the beginning of his final act. Most of the seven years he was in dialysis he was in pain, but too fearful of death to stop letting his blood be taken out, cleaned, and put back into him, a gruesome and artificial process running against the grain of nature.

49899812107_0116d3b684_c

My grandfather was in the Air Force, a sturdy young man in a uniform, lucky enough to enlist and serve between the Korean War and Vietnam, something I always wondered if he thought about. After learning how to work on planes there were few things mechanical that seemed difficult to him.  I always hoped that someday he and I would fix up an old car together. My grandam and he took my mother and uncle on cross-country road trips in their Volkswagen bus, camping all over the place. They raised golden retrievers. My grandfather was particularly fond of Americana sweet treats: Snowballs and Peeps especially. One day I drove him in my old Saturn wagon that had been his sister’s (a true old lady car that fit me, as even in college I felt beyond my years) over MacDonald Pass in the summertime to the car museum in Deerlodge, housed in the old state prison. He gleefully told me all about the cars there, and pointed to a Studebaker that had curtains and told me they were ideal for taking your date to the drive-in movies, wink wink. I had never seen my grandfather even hint at the idea that sex existed so it was great seeing him loosen up and laugh in that dank and weird (but amazing) museum. We went to the A&W drive in after, just the two of us. I remember him encouraging me to speed on the highway, because wasn’t I supposed to be a reckless young person? He took the photo below with me outside the prison, one of my favorites of him, on my old Minolta film camera.

5843883705_d3bf8fe587_c

My grandfather loved being a grandfather before he started getting sick. He delighted in us, four granddaughters in all. There is a photo of him holding me after I was born. I was the first grandchild so I was thoroughly spoiled by all parties through no fault of my own, and in this particular photograph he is beaming and proud. He built me this magnificent chair in the shape of a tiger sitting upright, and it was my constant companion as a child (apparently I fed it oatmeal often). I still have a stool he built for me, “KATE” painted in bright, cheery letters. When we eventually move somewhere permanently both things will come with me. They’re marvels of handiwork and love. He expressed love in building things and fixing things, so when his hands got too shaky for him to use tools or write I think he fell in on himself a little. I know that he is not the only man who is like that: handy and useful then slowly more and more useless, stripped of what made them proud and brought them purpose and joy. Still, even when he didn’t feel like himself, he made dark jokes about how there was so much gold in his mouth that we had to get his teeth out before he was cremated, because the funeral home would have a small fortune on their hands! (We did not do this, sorry Grampy.)

8527155300_d15cd6727c_o

My grandfather is hopefully wherever he wanted to be. I don’t believe in Heaven or an afterlife but I think he did, and hopefully he is somewhere peaceful, where his hands work and his mind can fly. I love you, Grampy.

8526042245_7b5cc1a821_o

P.S. I asked to inherit his massive, massive Kodachrome slide collection, part of which I had digitized a while back. I will hopefully keep digitizing his photographs and sharing them. He had an artful, beautiful eye for light and shadow, and Kodachrome’s moodiness fit his vision perfectly.

 

What not to do: My year of photography failures.

me_forever

Last year I tried to get my photography seen and have it become a business. An amorphic blob of a business- I was game for anything, from selling prints to photographing portraits- but a business none the less. I at least wanted to seem professional, ready for commissions. So, I built myself a sleek website, ordered beautiful, customized business cards, and printed a portfolio book called My American West that I was very proud of. It was hardcover, small-ish but sturdy, the kind of thing I could slip to business owners to look over to see if my photographs would look good on their walls. I made sure the paper in my portfolio was coated so that fingerprints wouldn’t show and kept my eyes and ears open. I thought about every aspect of every photo I made available on my website or in the shows I was part of.

It’s a year after I tried to have a business.

I deleted my website recently (I am too poor to pay the $16/month, ha!). My prints are mostly with me still. My portfolio book is beautiful and I treasure it but it wasn’t exactly the useful tool I thought it would be. My business cards might live somewhere out in wallets around the universe but they didn’t do me any good. I spent a lot of money on plastic sleeves and archival quality prints. Hours spent pounding pavement, hungrily trying to network and failing, not being brave enough to ask for what I wanted; it all caved in on me and I have very little to show for everything I tried. Why?

rare_talent

sicilia20

Not because I am not a good photographer. I am! However, I’m terrible at being extroverted, at networking and making friends. I saw fellow photographers who were on my level get a decent-sized event and space devoted just to their work, complete with beer and advertising (in Montana it needs beer or people won’t come). I know being an introvert is trendy now and we’re supposed to be quietly powerful, but it sucks sometimes. If you’re going to try and be a photographer, don’t be like me a year ago: Be bold, even if it’s not your shtick. Fake it til you make it, because I promise you it will get you somewhere. 

donotwait

Ask for what you want and need. I had a show last May in a local bookstore, which ended up being a disaster. I didn’t know how to ask for what I needed, so the space I got was horrible, split between two awkward corners of the shop. After the show I ended up crying because it was lonely, sad, and horrible. I took the show down early because it didn’t make me feel good to display work I’d spent hours putting together hang in weird spaces that didn’t do them justice. If you’re going to hang things up in public, haggle your way into the right places and spaces. Don’t settle too much. If the owner of the space can’t give you what you need, it’s okay to respectfully back out.

People didn’t care about me or my work, because they didn’t know me and hadn’t seen me around before. I haven’t lived at any one address for more than two years since I was eighteen, so roots weren’t exactly in place when I decided to try and make my business work out.  If you want your things to hang in a brewery, go to that brewery often-ish. If you want to submit work to a gallery, show up at that gallery and get to know somebody there, even if they just learn to recognize your face. Even if you’re not a suave chatty creature, the odds are if you’re not an outright ass somebody will be more inclined to take a chance on you and your work.

Budget! Framing is insanely pricey. Find local art grants if they’re out there. My shows, all three of them, didn’t look fantastic because I couldn’t afford good frames and nice glass to showcase them. Even then, I spent over $500 just getting my first show together, and it didn’t look nearly as professional as I had hoped. It was incredibly frustrating seeing my beautiful prints hang in cheap frames because that’s all I could afford. It made them look duller and less beautiful. Don’t let your work be spoken for with bad frames, poor hanging, etc. and if comes down to it please just settle on a smaller selection of photos. Quality over quantity, especially if you’re A Poor like me.

thefall_s1e1

Women, do NOT be at your shows alone. Weird old men will accost you and ruin things. Seriously, make a friend or family member hang around. Lonely or weird old men have a radar for women who can’t leave where they are! I was trapped by one particularly unpleasant man who mansplained the 70s to me even though I wasn’t even a concept then. This happened at both of my other shows as well. They’re like bloodhounds! Don’t let yourself be alone!

YES

As always, be gentle with yourself. Your first show probably isn’t going to go smoothly. You might feel like nobody likes your work, and that’s okay. Getting orders for prints can be tricky and shipping is a goddamn nightmare if you have a print store open. (I recommend just shipping in tubes- I tried to ship things flat for a while and it was EXPEN$IVE.) It’s all okay, and hopefully you’re not like me and decide to give up because life gets too busy and you’ve got to move out of the country. (I moved to a new town and when the pandemic is over I’d like to give this all a second go because I owe it to myself to do better.)

IMG_20181024_105553

I’d still love to have commissions from local businesses here in Victoria. I’d love to have a show at a cafe or a brewery. I’d love to try again, be bolder, and care more about the right things. Instead of being so mad at past me, who failed and didn’t advocate for myself and ended up compromising a lot about my work and my business, I hope that the lessons I learned help somebody else.

I blocked my ex on Instagram and ended up remembering a lot of bad stuff.

meallthetimenow

A few weeks back I found out that a long, long ago ex from a lifetime very different than this one had apparently fallen deep into my Instagram and ???maybe accidentally??? liked a photo of me in a bathing suit that I’d taken over a year ago. I felt immediately furious and invaded. Then a putrid, fetid flood of negative memories came flooding back to me. How this person was coercive and manipulative, how much I did things I didn’t want to do with them. How they made me feel like shit on a regular basis, criticizing my body and making me feel disgusting, worthless, while in reality reflecting their own huge insecurities and projecting those on me. Fuck you, you fucking fuck, I thought.

F38RV

telegram

Then I felt shame because I put up with a lot of their shit, how I yielded, ate less, and changed parts of myself while silencing others (while also literally shrinking). My face burned as I remembered that I mostly willingly continued to see this person, even when it was so, so bad. It’s crazy how many sad and shameful emotions welled up simply because he had dived deep into my social media account, which isn’t private and he technically could do anytime (and maybe had before?).

whatatool

I blocked him immediately and fumed, venting to girlfriends who agreed that he was The Worst, who knew how warped I’d been while dating him. I still couldn’t shake the feeling of shame because I had dated that person. I had agency back then, right? Why didn’t I leave? Why did I let him do things that made me more like an invertebrate, operating on a lower level than my fellow humans? Then I thought about all the systems that I operate(d) within: societal and cultural expectations around heterosexual relationships, power structures, expectations of the “Cool Girl” who doesn’t make a fuss about anything, how badly I wanted to feel loved and cared about, and how I didn’t understand how to be angry, and how I didn’t know how to say no. How I had been fed the message my whole life through movies, literature, etc. that being with somebody, even if they were a parasitic insect, was better than being alone (and this dude was 100% a parasite).

women_anger

tumblr_ob95z0VfLr1qe28lco2_500

Academically, I thrived then, throwing myself into research about plastic surgery in World War I, writing a thesis about portrayals of Catholic Madonnas in Peru and Mexico in the colonial era, presenting my first ever paper at a conference, and taking graduate level courses as an undergraduate because my professors saw that I wanted more. Now, I cling proudly to those academic successes, because the rest of my memories from that time are more like stinking pond sludge than anything else. I (temporarily) lost parts of myself then. My friendships suffered, my body image fell apart, and my world shrunk in horrible ways.

tumblr_o40pt5Ws3d1qdnibfo1_500

I’m almost thirty now, and things are mostly obscenely great, so it felt like a slap in the face to be reminded of that part of my life. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had these nasty reminders of dark parts of their lives, but it fucking sucks. Social media has often been a great way for me to connect to people around the world and share my ideas and thoughts, so it was really terrible to have this bog beast emerge after being gone for so long. On the bright side, it was a good reminder of how much farther I’ve come in all those years. I’ve found a voice! I’m a forward-moving person making progress, building relationships I’m proud of, and I have a partner who makes me feel like I’m a sunflower always basking in a great big happy sun. (I’m also way better at being angry and standing my ground!)

If you’re in a relationship that doesn’t feel right, please leave. If it’s not safe for you to leave, contact https://www.thehotline.org/ or your local domestic violence organization. They can help you make plans for staying safe. You shouldn’t have to be with somebody who makes you do things you don’t want to, makes you compromise essential parts of yourself, makes you feel small, etc.: You should feel safe, cared for, and like your partner wants you, in all the complex things you are, to THRIVE. 

Tide pools, self portraits, and podcasts.

I’ve recently begun making more and more self portraits with a slightly banged up Olympus OM-1.

49791913022_e1dd7a3bfc_c

49791524686_975791515b_c

I got this particular camera after my beloved Olympus OM-G died (I went thru two bodies in about ten years). I am rough on my gear- it often sits in my purse or hangs off my shoulder and I would be lying if I said I was a delicate person in any way, so the fact that a lot of my photo gear has…ahem…character…is not surprising. After OM-G No. 2 kicked it, I went to my favorite store in all of Montana: The Darkroom. The owner, Michael, is one of the kindest people I know in Missoula. He processed every roll of film I shot in Montana for the last four years, and better yet, he sells used photo equipment, and doesn’t try to cheat you on price at all. He is fair, knowledgeable, and if you’re lucky, you will spot him ripping up the dance floor at the Union with a lucky partner- he is a great dancer. If you’re even luckier, you might get to meet his shy and sweet three-legged cat named Gitzo, after a Japanese tripod brand (if you don’t find this lovely we can’t be friends, sorry). He sold me the Olympus OM-1 I still use to this day.

49791015023_7529f665db_c

The trusty old machine is working hard, documenting picnics and cemeteries and early, 6 am walks around Victoria, before people are out and about. In our small-world, mostly-inside happenings, seeing a river otter last week was The Big Event. He was fat, sleek, and beautiful, with a fat fan of whiskers. We had just eaten some sushi in the nearby cemetery because it was…well, frankly, safer than being near the still-busy beach. Once the sun started to go down and people started dissipating, we went down to the beach and saw a little head emerge from the water, and soon an otter emerged!! WOOO ANIMALS! Can you spot the otter in the photo? I didn’t have a zoom lens and didn’t want to get too close and bother him.

49791542826_d3015d0c66_c49791606786_63bda3d0fd_c49791057228_d33c9d3f3d_c49791892132_fd6bca9d35_c

Besides the otter and tide pools, I mostly photograph Logan. On the beach, in our apartment, on walks, wherever we are, and I remember when he was in Brazil and I was in Montana how much I missed photographing him. It’s good to be stuck together during a global pandemic, as weird as it is to go from a year and a half of long distance almost straight to quarantining together with only a few months in between of normalcy. I’m so grateful to have a partner in crime, somebody to eat the things I bake and help do dishes and bemoan that somehow, there is an incredible amount of laundry built up in one short week, and that yes, we do need to go grocery shopping, as complicated as it feels right now.

49790999088_9b5114b385_c49791533226_28f5592e3a_c

What are the things that are keeping you sane, hopeful, or grounded right now? What are you listening to? What recipes are working out for you? For me, this recipe for a Dutch baby (basically a fancy, eggy pancake in a cast iron pan) has been so satisfying to make. It’s simple, takes almost no time, and is absolutely delicious. The Guacamole song by Kevin Johansen, a (rather handsome) Argentinian musician, is full of good memories from college and my dear friend Hillary showing it to me, and after that the random algorithm often leads me to some decent Argentinian music. We recently watched Julie and Julia on Netflix, and ever since I’ve been imitating Streep’s “Oh, Paul!” whenever Logan comes into the kitchen while I’m making something. (I also bought The Art of French Cooking months ago and mean to make a chocolate Bavarian cream soon.) I come back to Karina Longworth’s “You Must Remember This” podcast over and over, and if I need to cry the Carole Lombard episode will always get me. It’s so well written and dense with facts, but Longworth presents all the information she digs up in witty,  subtly light ways that trick you into thinking she’s built some frothy universe when in actuality it’s more of a carefully constructed powerhouse of information about Hollywood, the film industry, gender roles, the economy, fashion, and expectations about sex, bodies, money, and power. (Cheers, Karina, you badass!)

Thanks for sticking around this weird, often abandoned corner of the Internet. I’ve had this blog since I was back in college, and it’s changed a lot with me. It feels good to come back to it right now though. Stay safe and well, as always.

Weird Words from Wednesday

Post from this Wednesday that I forgot to actually publish:

Today I felt my teeth in my mouth with my tongue and registered how crooked they’ve slowly become, despite wearing a retainer every night religiously since I was 16. It is particularly sexy to pop in your retainer before sleep at the age of 29, my friends, trust me. I remember my orthodontist telling me he could take off my braces early if I just wore the retainer…and now, my teeth have shifted. They’re not terribly crooked but they’re not the $5000 smile my parents scraped together for. I felt bitter and small today, once-pliable but pathetically shriveled, with my mildly crooked teeth and minimum wage job, despite wearing my retainer and working hard for a master’s degree, both feeling like slightly broken promises. It was a pity-me day, where I wanted to cry about things that right now aren’t worth crying over.

meallthetimenow

Then I went to the Japanese market on the way to the park, stopping in to get a soda and a little red bean paste mochi and a bag of snacks for a friend. I tipped even though society doesn’t dictate my need to do so, but we’re all struggling and if I feel like I can spring for a $3 soda I can surely leave a tip for a cashier. How neat would be it be to be wealthy enough that if I wanted I could leave $20 here, there, anywhere for people working right now? Fuck, I’d leave $100 if I could. This city is rife with money, I walked past an Aston Martin outside the butcher’s shop the other day and a Mercedes that tricked me into thinking it was a Maserati with the grill this morning on my way to work (you know these things after living in a posh Swiss city for two years).

still_accurate

My friend was waiting at the corner of the park after I left the market, dappled sunlight coming in through some trees, and it was strange not hugging her. We walked, awkwardly watching our distance, and found a little meadow to sit in near some daffodils and a thick bush where a few small birds huddled inside, protected and rustling around. She was accepted to Cornell for a PhD program and one of the first things I asked was if they gave her a decent funding package, because if I know anything (other than how to bake a decent pie and spout useless facts) it’s that you never, ever go into a PhD program that isn’t guaranteeing you decent funding, in writing. She’s brilliant and hard working and thorough so they gave her a good funding package, as they should. Later I wondered if that was something I’d want to go after.

Here’s the thing. Right now, we’re all talking and thinking about what we will do when this is over. I already knew that by spring 2021 I needed to have a decision about a PhD program made. The fact that somebody I deeply admire got into a program and is actively going to change their life’s trajectory by pursuing it makes me tilt my head in that direction, tipping my cap at them but also getting ideas. Is that something I want? Or do I want to try and get out from under this shit-wage thumb that’s holding me down? Do I want to pursue a career? A lot of us are blessed with options, which we end up seeing as a curse, in a world where options are often few, skimpy, and more a devil’s bargain in one way or another. I’m lucky to feel like a withered empty shell on more days than I’d like to admit, because I get the time and space to be a pissed off little crab. That’s a lot more than most people get.

me_forever

It was wonderful to sit in the park and talk to somebody who isn’t my boyfriend. I love Logan but he’d agree with me that other people are awesome. It was weird to sit a bit farther apart than usual from my friend, but it was grand to see how the sunlight hit her face and have the weird lilts in conversation as we’re the first people we’ve social distanced with other than our partners in a month (and my coworkers, but seeing as we can’t really do any after-work bonding, it still feels weird to consider that socializing). I missed talking to a fellow historian, a friend, on a warm spring day. It was balancing, normal, comforting.

On my way home I called Costco. A poor, horribly busy woman answered and helped me get contacts shipped to my apartment, even though she was handling all the phone calls at the store that day, and I wanted to give her a hug. I wished her luck before hanging up, and while I know that in Canada it’s a stereotype to be nice, she wasn’t just nice- she was kind. She helped me, was honest about how busy she was, but never once made me feel rude or even a bother. I bought fennel, tomatoes, garlic, and some chestnuts at the store on my way home, dashing in and out quickly. The chestnuts were random- I remembered the smell of the roasting chestnuts in the piazzas in Lugano in the fall and winter, and what a weird time that was in my life; a naive American girl trying to pretend I was graceful and glamorous in Switzerland. Right now is a damn weird time too, so why not impulse buy some chestnuts? I’ll report back on the results.

Things are strange and today was a sad day with a happy ending, and hopefully the rest of the week isn’t quite so emotionally fraught. I hope that you are all doing okay right now, maybe not thriving (that feels too optimistic and almost flippant) but getting by and finding ways to smile and feel joy. Joy is a scrappy friend, we need to hold onto it.

Maybe I am kind of sad.

What do I write about right now? How there’s a knot in my stomach and the trees outside the apartment are finally decked out in leaves and there is one spectacularly feisty robin with a nest nearby that viciously harasses the squirrel that my landlord feeds?

I saw a Northern flicker yesterday on my way to work. It hid behind a boulder when it saw me, but I was still able to see the flash of rust red and the distinctive black speckles on it’s chest. I’m still working, in an old basement with hexagonal tile floors and a bathroom straight out of the apocalypse, with a ceiling that leaks questionable, smelly liquid. We’re working a little too close together to be considered truly safe, but we’re all in it, and we’ve been doing this for long enough that the motto has quietly become, more or less, a version of fuck it, we’re in too deep now. We have all joined in an unofficial agreement to not do anything remotely sketchy outside of work. I’m going to a park tomorrow with a friend to talk from a distance and it is the closest thing to a transgression I can imagine.

49763856837_19a9fb027e_c

We’re all writing deep things and have profound thoughts right now and I wonder how much of our own content is read by others or even considered. Are we collectively burrowing deeper into ourselves more than ever right now? Things feel creepily close to normal for me, because I still get up every day, make coffee, and trek to work, past the shuttered businesses I miss patronizing, especially the really lovely couple who run the Sushi Express in the arcade near my workplace. I force myself to dress decently for work, even though I’m in an ancient basement working in a shipping department that stays remarkably freezing.

On Friday morning I got up at 6 am because I knew my soul needed it. That was the point of moving here, right? For the mornings, early and isolated, by the ocean to soak in the salty air and the ocean breeze and look at the enormous cargo ships far off shore in front of the Olympic mountain range. This Friday, bobbing in the tide, was the headless and tailless corpse of a harbor seal, with multiple holes from being eaten. I couldn’t tell how it died. The tailbone jutted out from one end of it. Seagulls lined the rocks nearby waiting for the body to beach itself. I hadn’t ever been this close to a live seal. It didn’t feel disrespectful or sacrilegious to get close to the body, to photograph it, to notice what was there and what wasn’t, even though humans are really weird about death and dead things and I’m sure people will feel negative things about my photographing it and sharing a photo here. It was a dead body of an animal that hopefully had a long and vital life, and it was being recycled every step of the way, as we were all meant to be, and I just happened upon it. I felt like a child finding a dead bird in the yard, with all the why and how questions, wondering if it felt pain as it died, how lonely it would be to die in the ocean (though isn’t death ultimately a solo experience no matter where it occurs?).

49763006498_cb97ae0855_c

I walked to another enclosed beach area, warning a man with a dog about the seal, imagining our long-dead dog Cooper getting ahead of me and finding it before I could stop him, and how he’d found deer legs and other animal parts at my parent’s home all the time, and got so, so sick. Then I picked up sea glass, hundreds of tiny pieces, finding blue and green and brown pieces, some old and extremely pitted, others still clear and young, relative babies. A precious, rare, purple piece presented itself to me after my legs and back started to ache from crouching over the sand and it felt like a reward. I had found purple glass only once before, at an old hot spring resort in Montana.

I realized my thoughts were running together on the beach, turning into a fast-moving creek, too fast to see the shapes of the rocks and snags under its surface, and I was so glad that I’d left my own head. We’re all a bit in our heads right now, obviously, and it’s been hard to take leave from my hyper anxious brain. Books have been a good escape but nothing beats doing things I have done for years: collect sea glass, go on walks, feel the needed perspective of smallness: my existence is insignificant, in the grand scheme of most things, and this brings me some comfort. It doesn’t feel as shitty to go to a job that makes me feel like crap, and to feel worried and sad all the time, because when I go look at the ocean, I realize that most of these fears I have, largely linked to late capitalism and exacerbated by a pandemic, are not noticed by the tides and the moon hanging in the sky and the great blue heron wading for breakfast.

Until next time. I hope you are all safe and loved and have access to what you need right now.

Been seeing me in your dreams?

I think a lot about the women who wore the vintage clothes I have. There’s a 1930s maid uniform that fits me perfectly that came to me stark white. I tried to dye it black but it turned out blue-grey, which is fine by me. I imagined the life of the woman who was probably underpaid and overworked who wore it- it wasn’t deadstock, so somebody must have worn it, somebody my size, 80+ years ago. Knowing how hard being a maid still is, how you’re more likely to be sexually harassed, taken advantage of, and be invisible, makes me hope that whoever wore this uniform found better prospects for themselves.

Yesterday this sheer blue dream came in the mail. She’s perfectly imperfect, and if you love vintage clothes you know that part of the joy is discovering the personality and quirks of your clothes. They’ve lived too, right? They’ve been on living, breathing bodies, bodies that sweat and wear perfume and spill coffee and get mud on hems. Previous owners wore these clothes to go to parties, work, on dates, maybe experienced heartbreak in them- the imagination can go wild, and that’s partially why I love these clothes. What occasions did the previous owner find herself in while wearing this dress? One of my favorite films of all time is “His Girl Friday” (1940), in which the incredible Rosalind Russell delivers sharp barbs at a mile a minute, witty and confident and beautiful portraying a toughened newspaper writer (the title of this blog posts is from the movie). This dress makes me think of those fast-talking, sharp women, who hold cigarettes in alluring ways and set their hair and wear nice lipstick. Maybe, through some weird osmosis, some of that perceived grace and cleverness will come to me!

49431261121_f48ab5f265_b

There are other dresses I’ve got that make me feel this way. There’s a late 1930’s black velvet number that is sumptuous, very uncasual, and intimidating. I’ll wear to breakfast because I can. I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on it, all from other women, mostly because I think we see each other dressing for ourselves, and recognize the joys of doing so. The dress is not sexy, it’s a bit scary- no showy neckline, no high hem, something that I fall into spells thinking about. What was the previous owner like? I own enough vintage dresses that surely somebody who was quite a wench owned one of them!

While I’m here, here are some of my favorite online vintage shops. Know your measurements before buying vintage (waist, bust, hips, and shoulders)! It makes the process pretty painless and super fun. There is also a decent amount of plus-size clothing out there these days, because even back in the day not all of us had 24″ waists! Don’t be discouraged by your size, it can be harder to find but larger clothing is out there!

Strange Desires– she has an eBay store but you can also DM her on her Instagram. She finds the most gorgeous and also interesting pieces, from hand-knit wonders to liquid silk dresses.

August Anne Vintage– I found Kate’s store after finding her Instagram after finding her now-defunct fashion blog (the internet is WEIRD y’all). She works really hard to find these pieces and if you’re into romance, whimsy, and also quietly-cool-girl vibes she’ll have something for you

Thief Island Vintage- Ella somehow finds the COOLEST and sturdiest pieces! I’ve got two dresses from her, both outrageous and delightful and loud.

KidSheets Vintage– Mollie not only has the world’s cutest/best haircut (a pink bowl cut) but she posts the most amazing OOTDs on her Instagram. She finds everything from 1940s evening gowns to suits.

Guermantes Vintage– If I ever randomly get thousands of dollars of fun money I’m spending it in her shop ASAP. She finds museum-quality gorgeous lame, cocoon flapper coats, 1930s satin evening gowns, the kind of clothes that make you cry because you don’t have $800 to drop on some scandalous beach pajamas!

And with that, I’m back to applying for jobs! Wish me luck!

 

 

 

 

Goodbye, Montana (Again)

49281960098_8f052ecaaa_c49282143648_f284ce82be_c

49282322623_ef72e253ce_c

I’ve left and come back countless times. It was only two suitcases when I moved to Switzerland, brand new Samsonite luggage from a Macy’s sale that made me feel adult, even at 18 with baby fat still on my face. The whole back of a large Chevy truck was reserved for British Columbia, with a chartreuse velvet chair, mattress, bed frame, an old trunk from the 1970s, and way too many books. Once again, I left Montana for British Columbia, this time sharing the back of a smaller truck with Logan, divvying up space for all the things we felt we needed.

Every time I leave Montana, I don’t look back- at first. This time, moving in the winter, I felt relieved to leave the treacherous roads, isolation of the cold, and the far away promise of green for a proverbial and actual land of plenty, where the sea gave us warm weather, flowers in January, and other bountiful benefits. Getting on the plane for Victoria, I thought “Montana will always be there”. Thus far, this has been true. I’m sure I’ll be back someday.

49091319553_96bdcd4839_c49299698096_53abff5cdb_c

49282842457_b611a5197a_c

Already though, I miss working at my brewery. I miss the bustle, the Friday night line to the door, seeing regulars like Larry and making sure they had a beer ahead of the line. I miss tasting the new beers, seeing how a new keg pours, gathering old glasses and getting them into the dishwasher, giving my coworkers-turned-friends shit and ending the night tired in a way that made me sure I would sleep well. My arms grew strong working there, and I loved being on my feet. I took pride in keeping that brewery clean, in talking about the beer we poured, asking Jeremy, the resident beer savant, questions like this:

Q: What is the difference between a porter and a stout?

A: Not a whole lot. (They’re both medium to heavy bodied dark beers with roasted malts and a lot of potential flavor profiles, i.e. you can have coffee stouts and coffee porters, chocolate porters, chocolate stouts, etc., although there are particular beers to each style that are special, i.e. an oatmeal stout which is historically considered a “vital stout” that was supposed to buck people up when they were sick.)

49282700607_74162aab00_c49091235148_60d7ef030e_c

Anyway….you can tell I loved the brewery. I miss Leann, Becca, and Cody a lot, even when Cody yelled “GOOD LUCK” across the bar when you’d say you were running to the washroom. The money was good, the pace was quick, and even when people were drunk or rude and yelling at you, you’ve got coworkers who are there for you. There’s a collective sense of purpose: Get. People. Beer. Nice beer, mind you.

49299327703_1f1006ff7c_c (1)

49300045122_7710b1aca9_c

My last month in Montana was full of diner visits, specifically to The No Sweat. The corner booth, where wise old plants that have been growing there for years almost lean over you, was the best. Having way too much coffee and subsequently talking a mile a minute over amazing hashbrowns with people you love while watching snow slowly fall over your beautiful little mining hometown: That’s a good morning. Thrifting, packing, seeing Australian friends you haven’t in a while, absorbing the moments because you know you’ll miss all these people terribly, filled all of my time when I wasn’t working.

49282727171_ff6eacf7dc_c

The biggest part of the last month in Montana, though: picking Logan up, finally. He’d been gone so long I showed up at the Bozeman airport sure it was a fluke that he was actually going to land, and when he did it was surreal. I didn’t know what to do with myself, seeing him be surprised by the cold, putting his luggage in the old Subaru, back in the land where we met and had our first home and made so many memories, a place we’d be leaving in a few short weeks, but it was all layered over with adrenaline and relief. We hiked Mount Helena the next day, had a beer at Blackfoot River Brewing Co., and enjoyed the weirdly warm November.

When it was finally time to drive to the airport, I cried the most about leaving my cat behind. Coe is my girl. She napped with me and told me ALL about all the things she did during the day (ate plants! puked up said plants in the living room! saw birds out the window! slept!) and I miss her blue eyes and picking her up. When we had to leave I cried all day holding her and she got mad about all the attention and hid. We knew it would be hard to find an apartment we could afford that would allow cats so my mom is keeping her and is being regularly annoyed by the nighttime screaming (I imagine Coe is having existential issues regarding being an indoor cat) and the plant destruction (also existential in nature, I assume).

49096456017_d510900d11_c

Now, we’re here. In Victoria, trying to make it all happen. Wish us luck, because our hearts tend to turn back to Montana without being able to control it, and moving is, as I have previously mentioned, The Worst and I’m trying to stay in ONE PLACE for more than a year or two.

We moved to another country.

All the public schools and universities are cancelled today. I don’t have work, so Logan and I are having an impromptu snow day together. I’m making this amazing winter vegetable galette, so fennel, beets, butternut squash, and carrots are roasting with some olive oil in the oven right now. The smell is wafting around our small 60’s apartment and I watch as people struggle to get through the wet, icy snow outside and feel glad we didn’t bring a car to Canada.

49391095462_a4b25ddb6c_c

We moved, somewhere I hoped wouldn’t be snowy but has thus far been snowy enough Logan can make jokes about leaving me because of the snow. (I may or may have not sang false promises of a snow-less, seaside town that would bring us both calm and ease of dressing.)

VICTORIAAAAA!!!

Processed with VSCO with m5 preset

We’re here, baby. We got an apartment in two days by viciously contacting every listing on Craigslist and taking the first one that approved us. The lobby of our old building smells like stale cigarettes and cooked chicken but we live on another floor and it just smells like new paint up here. I can hear the upstairs neighbors stomp around, and I already feel like a cartoonish version of myself, flipping a middle finger at the shoddily installed wooden floors that allow me to hear every footstep above me, wanting to grab a broom and slam the handle against the ceiling and yell like a cantankerous old woman. Morally, though, it feels much better to live in a slightly weird old 1960s apartment building than some upscale, ridiculous gentrified high rise that displaced people. I’ll take the chicken-smelling lobby over a place that asks $1700 for a 400 square foot one bedroom apartment that has one window and left some people worse for wear fending for themselves.

Logan started school full time. I’ve started a job hunt full time, working part time at a clothing store while I look for something that hopefully won’t suck out my soul. An archivist job was up but I didn’t get it, c’est la vie. I’ve moved around so much that it’s hard for my resume to look impressive- a lot of one or two year stints here and there, then moving again. Something will come up eventually (I hope!).

Moving is The Worst. The absolute Worst. My blessed mother, who should be a saint but isn’t Catholic, drove her truck full of our stuff up here to British Columbia from snowy Montana. We managed to pack our entire lives into a bed of a not-enormous truck. Books, clothes, dishes, and all. Art, too. No mattress, no furniture, nothing big, leaving behind so many things that carried memories but couldn’t fit.

Sleeping on an inflatable mattress in our new place was fun for a bit. We refinished an old oak table from Value Village. We have two chairs, a mattress that came the day before Christmas (best present EVER), two dressers, a table a downstairs neighbor gave us, and some dishes. That’s it. There’s a cooler in the living room full of books. Our 4 person tent is propped in the coat closet. We are living in the most ramshackle fashion but it’s great, because it’s our ramshackle fashion in our apartment, and I cannot express here how much I missed living with Logan.

The stress of job hunting has driven me to bake more and more. A few nights ago, to test drive Logan’s birthday cake, I made Gennaro Contaldo’s red wine chocolate cake in a bunch of ramekins, because I don’t have a cake tin yet. Long walks are a thing again, trying to get all my thoughts out of my body and finding that the only way is by pacing, climbing on rocks, looking at the ocean and feeling humbled. I feel so lucky to be back here, this time with my partner in crime, but all the luck we’ve had scares me. Two people can’t get this lucky, I fear and feel. I knock on wood a lot, and felt so happy when Logan hung a devotional by Saint Benedict in our room that his grandmother gave him. I’m not religious but I am superstitious and all the love and protectiveness of such things can’t hurt.

When I’m not trolling for employment there are books to be read. We live a few blocks from a branch of the public library and I’ve thus far devoured Deborah Blum’s fantastic “The Poisoner’s Handbook” for the second time. There’s a hefty history of the Italian mafia that eyed me from the library shelves now sitting on my bedside table, and a book about the history of surgery has taken up residence here too. Historical nonfiction is my beat and I can’t turn away! Is it perhaps because I not-so-secretly want to write something nonfiction someday and am just trying to absorb good prose, ideas, structuring, and such through osmosis? Maybe!

In any case, seeing as I am very under-employed right now, you might see more writing here. I missed this blog, it’s been a part of my life for so long now.

Thoughts from São Paulo

It’s 2 degrees outside. Fahrenheit.

Montana, it’s only October, would you mind waiting until December to do this?

I am firmly planted inside, wearing thick socks, hoping that my car will start for me to get to work later. In the meantime, I dust my negatives from Brazil in Photoshop and think back on my two trips there this year.

48975092977_fc611d665a_c

First, I never imagined that in my life that I would find myself as far South and a place as foreign in my mind as Brazil. It wasn’t until I was seriously dating Logan that the reality that we’d go down there solidified. I’d eventually meet his family and his friends back home, wouldn’t I? I couldn’t imagine what it looked like, smelled like, what Portuguese really sounded like. What sort of animals would I see? Is it really that hot down there?

After spending over two months this year there I can firmly say that I love spending time there. By there, I mean the state of São Paulo, or south-central Brazil. Brazil is a huge country, roughly the size of the lower 48 states in the USA, so making big generalizations is foolish and sloppy. It’d be like bunching people from New Jersey and Wyoming together, which Americans know would be strange and potentially hilarious.

That being said, a few things became apparent to me.

48974330868_c5ea321a6f_c48975431342_5d9420a225_c

Most people are friendly and helpful. Not everybody (because they’re HUMAN), but most folks we met seemed genuinely stoked to let me try my sloppy, weird gringa Portuguese. I went shopping by myself in São Paulo for a few hours and all the stylists I met were funny and kind. I was able to ask for what I wanted in my size, ask questions, and reply, and while I know I speak like a child right now, I loved interacting with people. When I met Logan’s friends, a lot of them spoke really good English but those that didn’t were still so kind to me, even though I had a hard time communicating. We went to see a few bands at Al Janiah, and after one of the bands was done, Logan asked them some questions and then introduced me to the women in the band. I never once felt like somebody was annoyed by my questions or my slow pattern of speaking.

While at university in Switzerland that was not my experience: most of the Swiss people I met were too efficient and didn’t want to make the time for me to practice my Italian (I had one man literally say “it will be faster for us to just speak English” at a market in Lugano). It was frustrating going to bookshops, clothing stores, the grocery store, etc. because most people didn’t have the time or patience to let you stumble through. The thing is, in order to learn a language you NEED to stumble. My Portuguese is not great but it’s not bad, either, because I have been able to practice with real people on the ground, make mistakes, even embarrass myself a little (a lot).

48975338258_998efd429e_c48975239742_8d423cd15a_c48968861661_7a19656ca4_c

The food scene in São Paulo is unparalleled. It is a city of 20 million people and there are immigrants from every corner of the world. You want to eat Middle Eastern food in a Palestinian restaurant that has a staff made up of immigrants and refugees and later see an all girl punk band? (Al Janiah!) You want to eat incredible Thai food in a tiny joint where the owner speaks more English than Portuguese? (Thai E-San Restaurante) Do you want to eat Michelan-starred oxtail soup, mocoto, tongue, intestines? (Mocoto!) Do you want a meal that will make you need to nap for four hours after? (Feijoada will do the trick, it’s a specialty Wednesday and Saturday at a lot of restaurants.) Are you an expat from the States looking for a good burger and fries? (Meats or Hamburginha!) Are you just STARVING but also lazy and don’t want to walk more than a few blocks? São Paulo is the city for you. We ate dim sum, Lebanese food, comida de Nordeste (northern Brazilian food), a fabulous French dinner, classic kilo meals, hamburgers that were perfectly medium-rare with buns fluffy as clouds, and lots and lots of juices.

48974849963_89aeaf228f_c48976057662_338c4d0e7b_c48975258932_965dec6e71_c48975481847_f7c3634b47_c

There is more art than you can imagine being made, everywhere, by everybody. São Paulo is a massive city but everywhere we went on the metro, in Ubers, etc. there was street art. Giant murals, small tags (one particularly memorable tag all over the city said “Rice and Beans and Ganja”), epic landscapes, portraits, social criticisms. A stairwell hidden in the Pinheiros neighborhood memorialized Marielle Franco, who was murdered for being an outspoken female politician who loudly protested police violence and was probably shot by police. Live music, while hard to find, is there and flourishing. Jewelers, leather workers, painters, and ceramic artists have their works in so many galleries, shops, and markets.

We went to a few markets and I bought some gorgeous earrings made from imbuia wood by a wonderful artisan, a leather bag handcrafted by a wife-and-husband team, and had to steer away from the dozens of other stalls because I didn’t have that much money. São Paulo is also home to MASP and the Pinacoteca, both of which are world-class museums, one devoted to art from all over the world, the other completely focused on Brazilian art. Brazil is full of artisans to this day who do things in slower ways. Logan’s grandparents have a front door made of rosewood from a long time ago that is carved with beautiful flowers, and textured glass windows that I’ve seen nowhere else. Entire buildings are covered in tiles (tile and cement are big because they help keep surfaces cool in the omnipresent heat) and there are small companies in São Paulo that make tiles for homes in centuries-old ways. Art seemed to be woven into so many things everywhere we went, and the art historian in me felt so happy seeing it all.

48974845173_fa95f4a258_c48974495588_06c3852375_c48968425133_b1a7220e43_c48976046177_7b80aed2ac_c

I have so many jumbled and half formed thoughts about my time there, but one thing I feel wary about is writing about the bigger situations and issues that are going on in south-central Brazil. There are similar parallels to the States in that young people can’t get good jobs, wages suck, a lot of people still live at home, there’s police violence, racism, sexism, and very real fears of climate change and the future. However, I don’t speak Portuguese well enough to be able to do these parallels justice and talk to people who live these experiences in the deep ways I want to.  I’m not prepared to paint complex social, political, and ethical issues in broad strokes without more research and talking to people who live those experiences. Even talking about Brazilian food delves into race, history, social structures, and class structures (a lot of what we think of as Brazilian dishes are Afro-Brazilian in nature, for example). With time, research, and patience, I would like to learn so much more about south-central Brazil, because I’ve gotten a crash course in traveling there that I don’t think many people get, thanks to Logan. 

 

A Sabbatical of Sorts

Six months. I didn’t meant to let this blog die, but it did. I built a photography website, had a few shows, started working at a brewery, camped alone and with friends a few times this summer, and spent a lot of time reading and brooding.

48531233502_f2dd642915_c48531222547_cbd61e3a74_c

Brenna and I went to PonyFest in Pony, Montana and watched live music and camped out in a local park. It was peak Montana hip summer.

48401418321_cd701ce3ea_c

I camped alone for the first time ever and had a blast making the fire, pitching the tent, and while I didn’t sleep a wink it was liberating to sleep alone and wake up in the pitch dark, pack up camp, and have Yellowstone to myself for a few hours.

48348496572_a79da88f46_c48435715317_1b4cbeb666_c48529622366_8c64a026b1_c48529710977_55f6c22c24_c

My mom and I kayaked on the Lolo National Forest and had a blast watching herons, camping on Seeley Lake, and roasting potatoes in tin foil in the campfire with butter and onions. (It takes a while but if they sit for a while in the embers the skins will get perfectly crisp and the inside will be buttery and hot.)

48278387381_fb3ea0cfab_c48278425282_9d2916d75a_c

Ella and I escaped from the world at Boulder Hot Springs, a century-old resort with beautiful rooms, and chatted, ate nice cheese, and heard the rain fall through the window at night.

48278285866_82c6024803_c48059371246_d60b2752b0_c

In spring I hiked alone quite a bit, watching the flowers that are slow to bloom in Montana reveal themselves, week by week. Things are slow to come alive here but when they do you must revel in their presence.

47927329866_eb7be58493_c47948024731_a340b7b9b1_c

A few trips to Missoula, which will always be tinged with a bit of painful nostalgia for me. I miss the life Logan and I built here, even if it was for such a short time. It’s hard to go back and go to places that were special to us and know that such a beautiful, exciting chapter of our lives is over (although we have more adventures up our sleeves!)

47927342556_3e64b2555f_c

My favorite creative wonder has been making semi-regular trips up to Montana from Colorado and we always make time to catch up at The No Sweat, a 1970s no frills breakfast and lunch joint that goes overboard with coffee and charm.

I know nobody really blogs anymore but I am somewhat firmly attached to this old beast. I’ve written as The Photographist since I was an undergraduate and my life has gone in such different directions than the young, naive Swiss-living Montana girl I was back then that abandoning this blog permanently just doesn’t feel right. Does anybody else have nostalgia and loyalty to mediums like this, even though they aren’t so popular anymore?

“My beer hand is cold!”

33515035608_8f53985c5a_c47338272092_2d5df9d3fb_c46476021675_18cdb0df31_c33515015008_87cfae44a1_c46476060585_7a62ee713a_c47391104801_0a5b252ba9_c46476012605_25ddbb49dd_c47338225782_4232420078_c46667797134_b25243e52b_c33515022708_d0d4a17722_c

With daylight savings going, it’s finally dark out past 5 pm. Katie and I took advantage of this, stashing a few beers in our packs, extra clothes, and sturdy winter hiking boots. Katie brought Yak-Traks, which are really an essential Montana tool, but I just trusted that my heavy, large hardy boots (they’re good to -20F with the right liners, and are 15 years old) would do the job (they did).

We got to the top of Mount Helena on the 1906 trail within an hour! In some places, the snow had drifted, and with the warming temperatures it had become heavy, slippery, and easy to sink deep into. We kept on trekking and even saw a nutter trial running in shorts! (This is actually not that abnormal but I’ve become more and more cold-sensitive and now that just seems insane to me.)

The top of Mount Helena is always windy, but it was amazing to be out and active. Katie and I kept marveling at the feeling of fresh air, of moving, of hearing the wind blow through the trees and seeing the sun glint off the snow. Sometimes winters here can feel never-ending, and cabin fever sets in, even if your car starts and you can get around town fairly easily.

I can’t wait to hike some more- it really does feel like the earliest of early signs of spring, just the fact that it’s finally above freezing some days brings me hope!

A Wounded Little Beauty

47300367232_c659240e23_c47300368232_b44f8320e2_c

I bought this slightly wounded 1930’s hand-made embroidered creation sight unseen off eBay from my favorite vintage dealer Strange Desires. Vintage is nice that way- you have your measurements, and you know if it fits or not before you buy it, because the way vintage is sold is by measuring the clothing items. There’s no wondering if a size 10 will fit or if you need to move down a size.

46438119165_d8db3ea487_c32411233257_3433c00708_c

When this beauty arrived, I immediately set to work reinforcing the stitches on the snaps, re-sewing the hem and the sleeves, and checking to make sure the existing stitches were sound. It took me a few hours, as I’m no professional seamstress, but I’m proud of how it came out! She’s ready to wear sparingly and proudly. Whenever I acquire something vintage I always wonder what the lives of previous owners were like. This dress is almost 90 years old, what was her owners’ lives like? Why did they choose this fabric? Where was this dress originally made? Maybe its’ the historian in me, always searching for more information no matter what, but I also just love imagining that whoever wore this previously did so with purpose and love. (Such a romantic, unrealistic thought, but I have no evidence to the contrary now, do I?)

46438116115_c61bed6c8d_c47300366212_1f1b012483_c

The Food in Brazil Post

46397086645_31ea2d9a81_c

Holding a heavy, ripe avocado in my hand, I marveled at the smooth skin. Before I arrived, Logan had told me about the heft and the sweetness of avocados here, much different than the Mexican ones I found in my American grocery store. These were bright green, and had fallen from the avocado tree in Alayr’s backyard that day. We cut one up and used it in a salad for lunch. Inside, dozens of guava fruits sat in a woven basket. Three pots of food (one rice, one beans, one pumpkin) sat on the stove, keeping warm and filling the small kitchen with a rich smell.

Almost every day that Logan and I were in his hometown, we ate lunch at his grandparent’s home with his family. Without fail, there was rice and beans. Sometimes there was carne seca, a re-hydrated meat that you eat with beans and rice, and bright yellow chunks of mandioca (cassava) sat ready to be squashed with your fork and salted and mixed with salad or whatever you wanted on your plate. The bright spice of fresh watercress surprised me constantly, as it just looked like spinach leaves, and the arugula was more aggressively flavored there as well. I tended to mix them carefully with lettuce because my taste buds were overwhelmed.

The general rhythm of Brazil to me felt like things were either done slowly, evenly, and in unchanging ways, or done quickly and haphazardly. There seemed to be no middle ground. Rice is cooked slowly, kept warm on the stove, and beans are left to soak overnight and then cooked the next day. Avocados are cut open, the mandioca boiled, the jar of salt laid out, the plates brought out at the same time each day. Everybody serves themselves, and after lunch strong black coffee is brewed and served in tiny cups. Sometimes dessert follows, with super-sweet little flans or a small wheel of cheese from Minas Gerais would appear, to be paired with goiabada (guava paste). This was our daily ritual. A small television in the back corner would blare out soccer games and the news. At various times the news focused on different disasters, from the Brumadinho dam collapse to the deadly fire at the Flamenco FC club that killed several of their youth team members. The news, no matter where you are, has the same depressing information.

If you go to Brazil, please try to eat with a family or make some Brazilian friends to eat with. There is no shortage of amazing things to try, and if you do your trip right you will be eating almost constantly, but finding friends or a family to eat with will guarantee that you’re taken care of. I cannot express how amazing it was to be so well fed and welcomed by Logan’s family, and how taking part in so many meals made me feel very lucky.

A typical breakfast there is often toast, coffee, and maybe some yogurt or cheese. Pão de quiejo (cheese bread made with tapioca flour) is also a frequent breakfast companion, and if you feel like sparking some serious heartburn, go for The Trifecta: Pão de queijo, fresh orange juice (suco de laranja), and strong black coffee. It’s absolutely delicious and you might feel like dying later but there’s nothing like it. See the photo below:

You will find pão de quiejo almost anywhere: in cafes, in gas stations alongside the road, in restaurants, etc. and I highly recommend eating a lot of it. The chewy middle and crunchy outside are delicious, and the cheesy flavor is addicting.

If you’re traveling or in a city, one of the most common types of eateries you will encounter will be a kilo restaurant, or a kilo buffet. They’re basically large cafeterias, where you make your own plate and pay by the kilo. They vary in cost and quality, but I love them because you can eat as much or as little, as healthily or as unhealthily as you want. They’ve usually got a salad bar, a couple kinds of pasta, different cuts of meat, rice and beans, and farofa. You’ll see everybody at a kilo to, from ladies stopping in from shopping to businessmen to construction workers. My favorite thing about the kilos is that they ALWAYS have sliced tomatoes, which I usually would bulk up on and just eat on their own. Kilos are also very common inside large rest-stops, which I love because when you’ve been on the road for hours on the slow, toll-clogged roads outside of São Paulo it’s nice to stop, stretch your legs, and eat a healthy meal.

I don’t really have any order or reason to the foods that are discussed here but I just remembered how good all the juices (sucos) are in Brazil. There are a ton of different mixes, and most places have a “Sucos” section in their menu of just juices.

My favorite is “abacaxi and hortelã” which is pineapple and mint. Fresh squeezed orange juice is also delicious. Lots of places feature juices called “detox” which are usually a combination of ginger, mint, and a couple of juices, and is actually delightful, not some cleansing bullshit meant to taste bad.

46224519884_c9d1377210_c

32008123987_13d99bbfa4_c

Seafood in Brazil is delicious. Shrimp (camarrão) and fish (peixe) and crab (carangeuijo) are abundant. Fresh fried fish, baked shrimp, shrimp pastel, etc.- it’s all there.

Fair warning: Sushi is becoming more common in Brazil but they tend to use farmed salmon and import tuna from very, very far away, and we found that the sushi rice is often way too dense and squishy. If you have to have your sushi, it might be best to wait until you’re in a major city. There are some high-end restaurants that are using local Brazilian fish and seafood in their sushi which means you’re getting fresh ingredients. There is also a decent, well-established Japanese population in São Paulo as well as other large cities and Japanese food in general is plentiful!

Fun random Japanese food fact: Ramen is called “Lamen” in Brazil! It’s easy to find in the cities, and although we didn’t get the chance to have any, I’ve heard it’s delicious.

If you’re invited to a friend’s home for a meal, the odds are you’ll eat outside. One of the most common sorts of get-togethers is a meat and beer dinner. A couple people will be responsible for picking up crates of bottled beer, cuts of meat, and some bread/butter/etc.

Most Brazilian homes have outside grills and barbecues, and you’ll sit around tables chatting, drinking beer, and eating lots of little bits of beef (there WILL BE at least one *good* friend who will refill everybody’s little glasses when they’re not looking, and if you don’t get very drunk at a meat and beer party then you’ve got bad friends).

46446961654_bf8865040f_c

A meal in Peiropolis, Minas Gerais, at one of the many kilos we ate at. Little pickles, fries, pasta, rice and beans, etc.- it was so good!

33343274178_185172a5a4_

Another typical Brazilian breakfast, this one at a little paderia, with french loaves quickly pressed on a griddle with butter, coffee, and pao de quiejo.

Fresh coconuts! These are super common, especially on the beaches, and some people love using their straws to scrape out the flesh from the inside (not me!)

33343320428_86e05fd2b4_c

Ripe guava fruits from Logan’s grandpa’s garden. They smelled so good! I think they were made into goiabada later.

Also, I have to talk about pastel. PASTEL. Fried goodness with palm hearts (palmitos), cheese (queijo), shrimp, whatever. A good pastel place will fry them to order. They’re served piping hot and with lots of napkins to soak up the grease. Here we had them at the counter at a little shop in Uberaba marketplace. Apparently drinking a full-sugar Coca Cola is a thing with pastel (I didn’t mind!).

Pastel, coxinha (shredded chicken with cheese inside a breaded fried exterior), fried pork belly, etc.- Brazilians love fried foods that are perfect with cold beer. I heartily encourage y’all to dig in and order some of everything when you’re at a bar. Also, remember that nobody gives a fuck about how your body looks. You’ll sweat so much there it won’t matter anyway.

Acai is a super common treat everywhere, and acai shops are all over. You layer the acai with a bunch of things, like condensed milk, Nutella, granola, honey, powdered milk, various fruits, etc.

My favorite was acai with powdered milk and strawberries, because I know you all care about my personal favorites.

Other foods to eat PLENTY of: 33422711138_328c701bd4_c

Lebanese and Palestinian food! When Logan and I were in Portland we went to a Lebanese restaurant and Logan told the proprieter he was from Brazil. The dude responded “Brazil is like a second Lebanon!” and that is very true. Lebanese food and culture is well-established in Brazil, and good hummus, kibe, baba ganoush, etc. are everywhere. If you’re feeling adventurous there’s a Palestinian restaurant called Al-Janiah in São Paulo that serves the most incredible kibe and is run by a Palestinian refugee. Its become a gathering place of sorts for immigrants, intellectuals, fringe folks who want to have good beer and eat fantastic food, and hear five or six languages in one spot. There’s also frequently live music. If that’s not your vibe, Brasserie Vittoria is AH-MAZING, and they’ve been around for over 70 years. Plus, they serve Cerpa beer which…I will talk about in my liquors post.

As you read this, remember that I spent six weeks in Brazil, and I mostly ate southern Brazilian food, and remember that Brazil is crazy-diverse country and that the food histories there are as complex and differing. I basically barely scratched the surface! 

I will add to this or make another post when I get my 35mm developed and scanned! I took so many photos of meals with film that I do want to share! But, for now, that’s all folks!